Lately, we’ve looked at the SUV, AWD, and 4WD – the conveyances we use to take us on our weekend adventures as well as through daily life. Earlier this year, we looked at the engine, but between that and the road are a few other components that are part of automobiles, whether they are AWD SUVs or front-wheel drive coupes.
The first component after the engine is the transmission. In the context of machinery, such as an automobile, the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the transmission as “an assembly of parts including the speed-changing gears and the propeller shaft by which the power is transmitted from an engine to a live axle.” As part of a motorized vehicle, the Online Etymology Dictionary dates the use of the word to 1894.
One particular thing of which to be aware, with respect to transmissions, is that there are two basic types: manual and automatic.
With a manual transmission, the vehicle driver must change the gears. In this process the driver will typically manipulate the clutch using a foot pedal to modulate the input of power from the engine into the transmission. Using their hand, the driver will move a shift lever to select which gear is being used. It may seem like an involved process, but it really only requires basic hand-eye coordination (actually hand and foot coordination – your eyes should be on the road) and it can be fun.
An automatic transmission takes care of the gear shifting for the driver. It used to be that the compromise that came with the convenience of an automatic transmission was that a vehicle would achieve lower fuel economy. With modern automatic transmissions, this compromise no longer exists; in many cases, a given vehicle with an automatic transmission is now achieving a higher fuel economy rating than the same model equipped with a manual transmission.
It has been quite a while since we have had a vehicle with a manual transmission in the Family Trivium household. They are increasingly difficult to find, and, as noted earlier, can no longer give a good argument with respect to fuel economy. While Mr. Family Trivium used to be a serious manual transmission devotee, he has slowly been pulled over to the Mrs. Family Trivium’s side of the automatic. If you have a preference, we’d love to hear about it in the comments.